SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – Once a national powerhouse in basketball, Lawrence Technological University is returning to its roots by joining the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and will field four varsity teams in the coming academic year and five more the following year.
Lawrence Tech was admitted by the NAIA Council of Presidents at its annual conference held in Kansas City this week. The NAIA was founded in 1937 and serves as the governing body for athletics for nearly 300 colleges and universities with 60,000 student-athletes throughout the United States and Canada.
Lawrence Tech President Lewis Walker made the case for Lawrence Tech’s admission, along with Dean of Students Kevin Finn, and Director of Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Scott Trudeau.
The NAIA requires all freshmen to meet stringent academic standards for initial eligibility and then show steady progress toward graduation. Academic progress is monitored throughout each academic term. The Champions of Character program is designed to instill character values in student-athletes and coaches.
“The NAIA’s mission of promoting the development of well-rounded students and productive citizens through intercollegiate athletics was very appealing to us,” said Walker. “Varsity athletics add another dimension to Lawrence Tech’s distinctive leadership skills program and they enrich the campus life experience. I also see them as a way to encourage a lifetime of healthy lifestyles. The athletic program will provide another exciting opportunity for our students to grow as leaders and well-rounded individuals.”
This fall the Lawrence Tech Blue Devils will field varsity teams in men’s soccer, women’s volleyball and men’s bowling. During the 2012-13 academic year, women’s soccer and men’s and women’s cross country will be added in the fall and men’s and women’s basketball will be added in the winter.
The men’s hockey varsity team will continue to compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
Lawrence Tech will apply for admission to the NAIA’s Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference that includes Aquinas College, Concordia University, Cornerstone University, Davenport University, Lourdes College, Indiana Tech, Madonna University, Siena Heights University, the University of Michigan-Dearborn and the University of Northwestern Ohio. Lawrence Tech expects to join the conference for the 2012-13 academic year.
Collegiate athletics are an important part of Lawrence Tech’s heritage. In the 1940s and early 1950s, the Blue Devils represented Michigan in the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball tournament and the National Invitation Tournament.
Varsity athletics were suspended in the 1960s because of lack of playing and practice facilities. In 1987, Lawrence Tech opened the Don Ridler Field House, which will undergo renovations for the new varsity programs. Outdoor athletic facilities will be upgraded and improved.
Dean of Students Kevin Finn said the new athletic programs will bring more school spirit to the campus. “The entire Lawrence Tech community will benefit from the addition of competitive intercollegiate athletics, and students, alumni, faculty and staff will feel a revitalized sense of school pride as we cheer on our Blue Devils,” Finn said.
More varsity teams could be added in the future. “There is already a strong interest on campus in men’s lacrosse and men’s volleyball,” Trudeau said.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, offers more than 100 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral degree programs in the Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering and Management. Founded in 1932, the 4,500-student, private university pioneered evening classes and today has a growing number of weekend and online programs. Lawrence Tech’s 102-acre campus is in Southfield, and programs are also offered in Detroit, Lansing, Petoskey, Traverse City and Toronto. Lawrence Tech also partners with universities in Mexico, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.